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Hamlin Garland (Hannibal Hamlin Garland) Biography

(1860–1940), (Hannibal Hamlin Garland), Main-Travelled Roads: Six Mississippi Valley Stories

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American novelist and short-story writer, born in West Salem, Wisconsin, educated at Cedar Valley Seminary, Osage, Iowa. Garland is an important figure in the history of American literary realism and one of the foremost exponents of ‘local-colorism’ or regionalism in American fiction at the turn of the century. In 1884 he moved to Boston where he began his literary and intellectual education, immersing himself in the poetry of Walt Whitman, the fiction of William Dean Howells, the economics of Henry George, and the writings of evolutionary theorists such as Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer. His first major publication, Main-Travelled Roads: Six Mississippi Valley Stories (1891), remains his most valuable contribution to American letters. The volume grew over subsequent editions; the final edition of 1922 (for which Garland wrote a preface) contains eleven stories which seek to challenge, and invert, the idyllic picture of life in the Midwest and the Great Plains that was inexorably becoming a powerful American myth. Four novels and a further collection of stories preceded Crumbling Idols: Twelve Essays on Art (1894) in which Garland sets out his theories of art and literature and describes his practice of ‘veritism’, a synthesis of the innovative ideas of literary impressionism, influenced by his reading of French critics, and the more established techniques of realism and naturalism. Garland attempted to sustain his theory in later works, notably Rose of Dutcher's Coolly (1895). The most important works of his later period are his four volumes of autobiography and family history; of these, A Son of the Middle Border (1917) and A Daughter of the Middle Border (1921) are an invaluable record of life on the frontier. His extensive literary friendships are recorded in Roadside Meetings (1930). See Joseph B. McCullough'sHamlin Garland (1978).

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